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#askNat – concerning orchestration on “She’s Leaving Home” vs. “The Long And Winding Road”

In keeping with Paul McCartney’s birthday week, this week’s #askNat question is very Paul-related. It comes from Thom Vourlas in Norfolk VA who sent this to me back in March:

Regarding mono and stereo “She’s Leaving Home”… knowing Paul McCartney’s dissatisfaction with Phil Spector reworking “The Long And Winding Road” years later, I’m curious why he wasn’t vocal about someone fooling around with the Sgt. Pepper track. And which one did HE actually prefer?

Paul McCartney letter to Allen Klein, April 1970

Paul McCartney letter to Allen Klein, April 1970 (click to enlarge)

A good question indeed, Thom and thanks for writing in. Allow me to backtrack a little bit here first with some background info. Paul wrote “The Long And Winding Road” and was apparently livid with the orchestrations and choir producer Phil Spector put on it without his permission. Actually it was done in his absence, as he was spending time in Scotland on his farm at the time Phil was re-working the songs for the Let It Be album. According to a letter Paul wrote to Allen Klein, who was acting manager of The Beatles and overseeing the Let It Be production, he had considered orchestration for the song but had decided against it. Despite Paul’s letter to Klein, Phil’s production was what ended up on the album and we never got to hear how Paul intended it to sound until Let It Be…Naked was released 33 years later in 2003.

Thom’s question is a valid one since “She’s Leaving Home” recorded a couple years earlier for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is actually completely orchestrated as well. In fact, no Beatles play instruments on the track at all. Paul had an independent producer named Mike Leander score the song since George Martin was busy with producing a Cilla Black session at the time Paul wanted it done. George conducted the score however on March 17, 1967 and Paul, along with John Lennon, added their vocals three days later.

The Beatles, 1967

The Beatles, 1967


In response to Thom I should say that we shouldn’t misread Paul in not wanting heavy orchestration on “The Long And Winding Road” to mean he is necessarily opposed to heavy orchestration on other tracks where he and/or the other Beatles may deem it appropriate. Paul likely composed the melody for “She’s Leaving Home” on his piano, but felt a string arrangement would be more suitable for it. Since this was largely his own decision he would have no reason to be dissatisfied with having the song orchestrated, whereas he decided it would NOT be a good idea for “The Long And Winding Road.” Nevertheless, it was done anyway, behind his back, with an arrangement that was far inferior to any that George Martin would have done at a time when the relations between Paul, the other Beatles and Sir George were better. Besides, despite the way the “Spectorized” version of Let It Be came out, it was initially intended to be a back-to-basics, no overdubs, tracked-live type of album anyway. So how does orchestration fit into that concept? So much for how that idea turned out.

Thom also asks which mix of “She’s Leaving Home” Paul prefers since the mono and stereo mixes from the Sgt. Pepper LP differ. The mono mix of the track is sped up to raise the pitch from E to nearly F major and they forgot to do this on the stereo mix, which consequently runs about 14 seconds longer, playing at the speed that it was actually recorded. While I have no confirmation from Paul himself, I’m guessing that he prefers the mono mix as he and the other Beatles were actually involved with mixing it and they were not present for the mixing of the stereo tracks. Had they been there, it’s very possible that the stereo mix would have had the speed adjusted as well.

The recording of “She’s Leaving Home” included a harp, double bass, 4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. The additions given to “The Long And Winding Road” included a 35-piece orchestra and 14-piece choir.

Thanks again for an interesting topic to discuss, Thom. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.

Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:

1) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 2009 remastered CD of the original 1967 stereo LP featuring “She’s Leaving Home.”

2) Let It Be – 2009 remastered CD of original 1970 LP featuring Phil Spector’s orchestrated original version of “The Long And Winding Road.”

3) Let It Be… Naked – 2003 CD of “naked” versions of “Let It Be” tracks stripped of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” treatment of “Across The Universe,” “I, Me, Mine” and “The Long And Winding Road.”

4) Beatles/Beatles-related Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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  • Elliott Marx says:

    The arrangement on She’s Leaving Home is simply sublime; beautiful and sympathetic to each line of the lyric. The arrangement itself tells a story and can exist on it’s own even w/o Paul and John’s vocals.

    The chart written for The Long and Winding Road is pure cheese. It is tedious, bloated and filled with cornball sentimentality. I fond it to be such a turnoff that until Let it Be…Naked TLAWR was my least favorite Beatles track. I now realize that it is a spectacular piece of music unnecessarily buried beneath crud. Gilding the lily indeed.

    Nat, you didn’t mention that Richard Anthony Hewson, the arranger who scored TLAWR went on to work with Paul and did the charts for Thrillington – which I think is quite cool. Which goes to prove that Paul clearly did not want that song to be scored in spite of recognizing the talent of the arranger and possibly even liking the chart itself. It should have been his call. His call however was unanswered at the time. I would have been furious.

    For years Paul repeatedly had tried to prove that as much as Lennon he too was a rocker. To some degree McCartney still tries to prove this point. This maudlin scoring undermined his effort, I think he may still be bitter about that.

    As usual the only one truly deserving demonization is Phil Spector.

    • Rich says:

      Elliott, while I agree with your assessment of the “She’s Leaving Home” scoring, I disagree somewhat with your take on the “Long and Winding Road” scoring. While I could do entirely without the female voices, I love the strings and horns. I particularly like the upward progression by the strings where the second go-round of the chorus would be. And I think the ending is stronger for the orchestration. I guess I’m in the minority here, but I prefer the orchestrated version to the “naked” version.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    So Yesterday was also all orchestrated “no Beatles” playing on it. Also, Eleanor Rigby.

    Anyway, if you want another take on TLAWR by Paul, look no further than his version on Give My Regards to Broadstreet. There you will hear a saxophone and other instruments playing along. So it had all to do with Paul having lost control over his recordings for the Beatles.

    The Love Soundtrack was heavily re composited and turned upside down, but not without approval of all parties. Paul didnt get that at that time. George & John got to redo portions of their songs they were unhappy with at that time. Because they were buddy-buddy with Klein & Spector at that time. Phil even produced their first couple solo albums. (Although George & John said Phil didn’t do much, they just gave him credit anyway because they were fans of his).

    • Happy Nat says:

      Yesterday did have one Beatle playing on it.

      • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

        So we are told. ;-) Yeah, forgot the guitar, but remembered he wanted strings.

        Oh Richard Hewson also orchestrated The Family Way for Paul. AND he did a nice soundtrack for Melody which features a couple instrumentals of BeeGees tracks.

  • Mike says:

    I think ‘The Long and Winding Road’ on the original Let It Be album is all about Paul McCartney losing control of the track..the version on the ….Naked album I don’t think is as good…but hey…it’s all subjective…

  • Clovis says:

    Yes, but Lennon signed off on all the “bad” things Phil Spector for which has been lambasted. Perhaps McCartney should not have tried to (1) have more voting power, and (2) a larger financial percentage.

  • Stacia says:

    Somewhat unrelated…I was looking at that yellow letter from Paul you’ve enclosed. I’m wondering why it isn’t actually signed by Paul, and why there’s a bigger typeface in the background, as if the paper was used behind another type-written memo.

  • slurpy says:

    g. martin wasnt happy with shes leaving home, since he and the rest of the fabs were not involved at all. paul did that with Mike Leander, [and not abbey road, but at another studio in london, where he did other beatle tracks] but it was a great fit in the sgt pep album. note many beatles tracks were not all beatles, but all paul, doing all the dubs, or most [ballad of j & yoko, is one]. also paul hated alan klein, and was not on board for him taking over after brian died. in fact, i believe this was the real end of the beatles, over this battle for the band mgt…

    another factoid, the group spent days mixing sgt pep in mono, and then left the studio to g martin to mix the stereo versions, they thought at the time more people would listen to the mono version, but capitol had a big interest in stereo marketing, which was really taking off in the late sixties….

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